MORGANTOWN — A new pamphlet called Why Socialists Should Become Teachers has its roots in West Virginia and is making some waves across the country.
While the pamphlet is anchored in the recent statewide teacher strike and was written by — portions of it, at least, if not the whole thing — some West Virginia teachers, the leader of one of the major teacher unions said it doesn’t reflect the position of his organization.
In a rare instance of agreement, Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, and state Senate President Mitch Carmichael said the pamphlet is not about empowering teachers to teach or kids to learn but about putting people in the hallways who can promote class warfare.
“I viewed it that way,” said Lee, who was unaware of it until The Dominion Post contacted him for comment and sent him a copy to review.
It contains many inaccuracies, he said. “It’s certainly not the position we would take.”
WVEA strives to bring the best and brightest into the classrooms to make a difference in the kids’ lives, he said. “Our organization is a strong group of educators and service professionals who work tirelessly to improve the lives of their students.”
The pamphlet was published by the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission and the Young Democratic Socialists of America, both branches of the Democratic Socialists of America.
The pamphlet’s forward, which contains the byline “Written by DSA teachers of West Virginia,” says:
“Many teachers and service personnel have begun to view politics through the lens of class consciousness. With socialists active in our organizing, we’ll be in a strategic position to make bold, visionary demands to take on the capitalist class.”
The pamphlet’s forward picks up: “The West Virginia strike didn’t happen by chance. It was the result of creative shop floor organizing by teachers with socialist politics. These teachers introduced a fundamentally different vision of their state than what was offered from either elected officials or union leaders.
“This pamphlet argues that socialists should take jobs as teachers (and other school-based workers) for the political, economic and social potential the industry holds,” the forward says.
Deeper in the document it says, “We as socialists need to build a ‘militant minority’ of class-conscious teachers that can move our unions in a more militant and democratic direction. This direction, steered from the shop floor, should aim to make universal demands that bear on the lives of the working class at large.”
It’s unclear if the forward and the rest of the document were written by DSA teachers of West Virginia or other members of the organization.
Attempts to contact the group with various questions led to Program Associate Lawrence Dreyfuss who provided a link to the pamphlet — a link The Dominion Post already had — and said, “I have no information beyond what is on that website.”
Carmichael, R-Jackson, issued a press release on the pamphlet — through West Virginia’s Future PAC, not through his Senate office because it’s campaign related — and talked to The Dominion Post by phone.
Talking about the pamphlet’s emphasis on political action over education, he said, “That’s what was so shocking to me, and it was appalling, really.”
The GOP’s focus, he said is on improving student outcome, helping students be more successful, helping teachers to be more satisfied and successful in their classrooms.
“This is militant organizing. I think this is just a seminal moment in the direction of our state in terms of our education community. If that’s what they want to use our public education system for, that’s just beyond the pale.”
Among the questions The Dominion Post was unable to get the organization to answer were how many DSA teachers of West Virginia there are, who wrote the main body and how and where the pamphlet is being circulated.
The DSA Chicago chapter refers to it on Twitter, and a post on the Democratic Socialist Teachers Facebook page says, “Great work everyone who helped make this pamphlet a reality!”
Carmichael said he has no sense of how far or wide it’s being circulated. Constituents brought it to his attention.
A spokeswoman for American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia said they hadn’t seen it. The Dominion Post sent them a copy, but they declined comment on it.
The pamphlet was the subject of a recent Fox News segment, discussed in the light of Democratic Socialists such as Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Andrew Gillum in Florida winning Democratic Party primaries.
The organization said on Twitter its national membership topped 49,000.
Carmichael said, “I just think it’s a horrible direction for our country that was founded on and embraces and is successful with free market American capitalism.”
Lee said WVEA’s priorities, in contrast to the DSA’s, include securing an adequate salary and compensation package that will allow dedicated teachers to stay in the profession. “That’s why the 5 percent raise was a good first step.” It was an initial investment, and they want to continue to move forward.